Solo flight

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It all hit home for Telvin Smith two weeks ago, when a horde of his former teammates took the field at Doak Campbell Stadium to work out for NFL scouts at Florida State's pro day.

A few years ago, Smith had sat next to them in meeting rooms and across from them in the dining hall, trading stories about what it would be like when they finally reached their goals. Now, so many of those dreams had come into focus, and Smith was a bit overwhelmed by how far he'd come and how little time was left.

"That just opens your eyes that it's one step away," he said. "That's all that showed me, is that I need to focus up and get where they're at."

Smith has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two seasons as a platoon player at middle linebacker, but as he approaches the finish line of his college career, 2013 represents a turning point, a chance to blossom into an every down performer.

A year ago, Florida State's middle linebacker platoon of Smith and Vince Williams combined for 123 tackles, a tally that would've ranked second in the ACC had it belonged to a single player. But Williams has moved on, and this season Smith will get his chance to prove he's ready to put up comparable numbers on his own.

"It was great with Vince, and I love that guy. We still talk," Smith said. "But at the same time, there's nothing like filling your own shoes and living up to the expectations that people have been talking about all these years that I've been here. I'm just ready to play."

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Smith always has been a bit tall and a bit lean for the inside linebacker role, and during his timeshare with Williams, he was pegged as a player who excelled on passing downs. For a while, the reputation was deserved.

Williams got a chance to chat with Smith at pro day, too. He was impressed that Smith had added a few pounds. He looked bigger, like a run stopper, Williams said. Jimbo Fisher saw the same thing as he broke down the tape from last season.

"Telvin played good on first- and second-down, and he was usually in the bottom of those piles," Fisher said. "Telvin can do 'em all. Telvin's no doubt an every down 'backer, and he'll play."

That's exciting for Smith, who has earned a reputation as a big hitter and a bigger talker. In the locker room, he always has been one of the Seminoles' most high-energy players, a vocal leader in every sense except that he didn't have a full-time job.

Now, there's little question who will be providing the voice of FSU's defense.

"I've always been the talkative guy on the team or the spirit of the team a little bit," Smith said. "I wouldn't say it's shifted, but more people are depending on me to do bigger things."

Indeed, Smith will be a centerpiece in Jeremy Pruitt's new defensive scheme, and at a position with virtually no experienced depth, the demands and the expectations have never been higher. Smith wouldn't have it any other way. Back when he was a freshman, sharing dreams of the future with Williams and others, this is what he envisioned.

"It's my last spring, and I'm really thinking about things that you don't think about as an underclassman," Smith said. "I'm just really happy to be with my team."